New Report RevealsWestern Funding Streams For Conversion Therapy in Africa
An investigation by openDemocracy 50:50 has found that clinics offering ‘anti-gay therapy’ have received funding from Western NGOs – at a time when a ban on conversion therapy is in the UK spotlight
Health facilities operating in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania that offer ‘anti-gay therapy’ are in receipt of international aid money, including from USAID and the UK Government. Both provide funding to NGOs working in the three countries which, in turn, support local health clinics.
The investigative news website openDemocracy 50:50 found that a counsellor at a clinic in Mwenge, Tanzania, told its undercover reporter that her brother’s sexuality could be “changed” – offering a timetable “including the days that he should visit the hospital, until, finally, you find he has changed”.
openDemocracy revealed how the clinic was funded by MSI Reproductive Choices, which receives funding from the UK Government and other major donors. The charity has launched an “investigation and will take immediate action against anyone found to be involved in this abhorrent practice”.
In Uganda, where homosexuality is criminalised, The Global Fund provides support to local NGO, the AIDS Support Organisation, which provides funds to a HIV clinic in Mulago Hospital Uganda. A nurse at the clinic told openDemocracy’s undercover reporter “whoever wants to quit homosexuality, we connect them [to external counsellors]”. The clinic also received funding from USAID. The Global Fund has said it “takes seriously the matters raised” and “will look into them”.
HIV and AIDS organisation LCVT Health in Kenya is also linked to organisations offering conversion therapy. Staff at a clinic based in its head office called being gay “a trend”, leading to LCVT Health launching an investigation. It received a grant from a US Government programme tackling HIV and AIDs in 2019.
In one shocking finding, Uganda’s biggest private health facility, Nsambya, told an undercover reporter to speak to Cabrine Mukiibi, a counsellor who mixes “Freudian theories, biblical quotes and anti-gay insults in his diagnosis”. From his private office, Mukiibi advised the reporter to hire an 18 to 20-year-old female house maid for her supposedly gay teenage brother.
Conversion Therapy in the UK
The findings from openDemocracy 50:50 come at a time when conversion therapy is under the spotlight in the UK.
A promise to ban the harmful practice was included in this year’s Queen’s Speech which sets out the Government’s legislative agenda. However, campaigners have voiced their concerns that the ban will only be introduced following a consultation, delaying its implementation.
This consultation is designed to consider “religious freedoms”, with the UK Government stating it wants “legitimate forms of pastoral support to continue”. This includes prayer – which, its proponents argue, can help someone explore their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch said the Government did not “intend to stop those who wish to seek spiritual counselling as they explore their sexual orientation”.
The move was praised by the Evangelical Alliance – an organisation which welcomes and supports those who help people who “experience same-sex attraction as a conflict” with a commitment to live according to “Biblical teaching”. Its website states the “help will involve counsel and pastoral support to live a chaste life and, as part of this process, some may seek and experience changes in the strength or direction of their same-sex attractions”.
The Evangelical Alliance says that, while it encourages “evangelical congregations to welcome and accept sexually active lesbians and gay men”, they should do so in the expectation that LGBTIQ churchgoers “will come in due course to see the need to be transformed”.
LGBTIQ rights campaigners argue that such pastoral support is in itself a coercive practice, and that “spiritual guidance” is simply Evangelical-speak for conversion therapy.
Campaigner Matthew Hyndman previously told Byline Times that refusing conversion therapy, even when couched in terms around prayer and spiritual counselling, can lead to people losing their family, friends and community. This in itself makes it coercive as the social and emotional consequences of not taking part can be so devastating.
People who have endured conversion therapy explain how it led to them wanting to take their own life, as well as leaving them with feelings of anxiety and depression.
Jayne Ozanne, who underwent conversion therapy and quit the LGBTIQ advisory panel for the Government, said that Badenoch’s speech on the issue was “appalling” and that she was “increasingly concerned about what seems to be anti-LGBT rhetoric” from the Government.
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